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Responsibility and Opportunity for Clean Air

Woman on couch

COVID has unveiled the ugly reality that viruses and other contaminants are transferrable by air, bringing the concept of healthy homes to the forefront of our national dialogue. As consumer awareness increases, the definition of healthy homes is expanding into something entirely new. What are the implications for homeowners, building professionals, and manufacturers?

As I wrote last week, COVID has expedited the adoption of a wide spectrum of enabling technologies that are increasing efficiencies in most sectors of our economy.

This is particularly true in the indoor air quality space, given the massive surge in consumer interest in creating healthy homes. In an attempt to pandemic-proof their homes, consumers are exploring and investing in innovative products and technologies to help them adapt to today’s new realities.

Consumer interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) has hit a new high, with nearly 92% of respondents in a recent Green Builder Media survey relaying that good IAQ is extremely important or very important.

According to COGNITION Smart Data, consumers are looking for smart IAQ systems that:

• Monitor toxins, dust, CO2, VOCs, temperature and humidity and, when poor IAQ is sensed, the system turns on vent fans,  ERVs, range hoods, or other air filtration systems
• Can be controlled from a central hub and integrates seamlessly with smart home system
• Offer proactive information and diagnostics
• Has software that can be upgraded remotely, providing homeowners new levels of convenience, efficiency, comfort, independence, and security
• Can learn a homeowner’s behavior and act accordingly to optimize performance, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness

“COVID has captured homeowners’ imagination of what is transferrable in air,” confirms CR Herro, VP Innovation at Meritage Homes. “Consumers are now aware that viruses and other harmful toxins can be airborne, so investing in products and technologies that reduce pathogens on surfaces and in airways has become a top priority.”

Herro asserts that the definition of healthy homes is expanding. “Ten years ago, building professionals and consumers thought of healthy homes primarily in terms of energy efficiency. Today, the concept includes eliminating toxins as well as lifestyle-enabled floorplans, responsible life choices, healthy cooking, and emotional stability.”

He believes that one of the main factors driving housing market growth is the need for people to feel safe. “People are moving from places where they didn’t feel safe into newer construction and single-family homes. It’s simple psychology as identified by Abraham Maslow—one of our most basic needs is the desire to feel safe.”

Herro further avows that improving IAQ is equally as important as enhancing overall wellness and developing strong psychological roots by creating a stress-free home. “The pandemic is promoting medical and psychological wellbeing, an interest that will surely outlast pandemic.”

At Meritage, Herro and his team have upheld for over a decade that delivering healthy homes with good IAQ is essential. “At first, we believed it was our responsibility, but now we see it as an opportunity. As home buyers lean into the concept of healthy homes, we get the opportunity to evolve our platform.”

Meritage is planning to launch their next-generation of healthy homes within the next few months, which will include integrated, whole-home systems that monitor indoor air quality and proactively turn on ventilation, filtration, and purification technologies when toxins or particulates are sensed, like Panasonic’s Cosmos system.

The good news—the evolving definition of healthy homes offers a tremendous opportunity for homeowners, building professionals, and manufacturers alike to participate in market transformation.

Herro’s advice to building professionals: “It’s a great time to be wide-eyed and eager to add value. Our industry is not innately innovative, but now is a quantum-leap moment to be a change agent, contributing positively to the industry and world.”

As for home owners and buyers, he submits that “a home adds meaning and value to life. It’s more than just a place to hang your clothes.” He suggests that “people should expect more from their homes—there are vast benefits available to the discerning buyer that the average buyer is not getting, so be sure you know what you want, and then ask for it.”

By Sara Gutterman